Regional usage usage

Posted by Alex on February 22, 2002

In Reply to: Regional usage posted by R. Berg on February 03, 2002

: : : : I always thought y'all (meaning you all) was plural. However, during a trip down to South Carolina to purchase a sailplane several years ago, I heard a resident address a group of people as "All y'all". Recently, I checked the web and "All y'all" shows up in multiple documents including an article in "The Onion". Y'all, apparently, is now singular, meaning you in particular. Do all y'all have any other examples of a phrase changing form or a formal name for the transformation? Also, how long has "all y'all" been in common usage?

: : : I love "The Onion," but I wouldn't count on it as an authority on language.

: : : y'all; you-all - pronoun. "Means 'all of you.' It is used in speaking to two or more people, never to just one person except by DAMNYANKEES TRYING TO BE CUTE (emphasis mine), or who don't know any better. Besides, 'you all' is sanctioned by biblical use (Job 17:10). Grammatically speaking, 'ya'll' is known as the 'generous plural'' so is Yankee 'youse,' rural and mountain 'you-uns,' and the interesting 'mongst-ye,' which used to be heard in coastal North Carolina and Virginia." From "Southern Stuff: Down-home Talk and Bodacious Lore from Deep in the Heart of Dixie" by Mildred Jordan Brooks (Avon Books, New York, 1992).

: : You have the yankee part right, but I'm a little young for damnation or remembrances of the War of Northern Aggression. If you have personal anecdotes of either, I'm eager to hear them.

: : Also, I plead innocent to both cuteness and ignorance. Just the messenger here. While in Spartanburg, SC, I was addressed personally as y'all and all y'all when in a group. Can't get much more south then SC, but I also heard all y'all last December in Mobile, New Orleans, Houma and all the way up the river through the bootheel. Y'all had dropped out of general usage by St. Louis, though everyone still persisted in calling pop soda.

: : Thanks for the definition of generous plural. By the way, what do you put on your grits? I heard Miracle Whip mixed with filé (fee-lay) powder is popular, but I haven't had the nerve to try it.

: In California we call soft drinks sodas. That's not particularly Southern. "Pop" sounds old-fashioned to my Western ear.

My experience is that "pop" is a mid-western usage, and soda is bi-coastal and big city.

I personally have never heard the aforementioned, "all, y'all", but I have not been to the south for quite sometime. Though I do know north-easterners who use "y'all" when being friendly and informal, as in "Y'all come back now, ya'here." in mimic of southerners. Southerners are well know for their hospitality, especially when compared to fast paced New York City folks. One might guess that the desire by the southerners to be anti-yankee, anti-big city and anti-New York leads them to avoid the abrupt and direct "You" as a yankee thing and are accidentally over informalizing thier own language by using y'all for both you singular and you plural. So what they find is that they have recreated the original problem, how to differentiate y'all singular from y'all plural. Hopefully, if yankees do not adopt the "y'all" and "all y'all" forms, we will not find the south counter-adapting "all y'all" to both singular and plural usage, thus begetting the altogether abhorant and entirely ridiculous usage, "All y'all all" or possibly, "All all y'all." :P

a damn yankee
(yankee of course deriving from Dutch for out-lander)